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Philly Locals

Bertie the Bunyip
Dear Billy,

Your web sites on lost local kid shows are the best. Anyone can scan the list of pages and understand how important these celebrities were to us baby boomers. Here is my contribution to that time in Philadelphia TV history.

The pictures and information I want to share with you on Lee Dexter and Bertie the Bunyip I acquired from a flea market. This takes Bertie on a 10 year span from 1956 to 1966 on Channels WPTZ, WRCV & KYW (all Ch. 3 Phila.) And WPHL-TV (CH. 17 UHF) in 1966.

You can see from the later picture that Bertie looks a little worn out next to Granny. Lee with his Australian accent lent an air of sophistication to Bertie and Sir Guy de Guy's voice. The gang consisted of Bertie, Humphrey the White Rabbit (who wore a black cape), Fussy and his brother Gussy, Nixie the Pixie, Cindy the dog, Sir Guy the Fox and Twinkle the Squirrel.

A Bunyip from Lee's description, was a cross between a bunny, a collie dog and a duck billed platypus. Their adventures could always be seen on Sunday mornings at 11AM and at times on Saturdays too. They always showed NTA and Betty Boop cartoons.

Bertie the Bunyip Besides Bertie, Ch.3 had Pete Boyle (father of actor Peter Boyle). In the early 50's, even before I was born, he was known as Chuckwagon Pete. Later the show was called Pete's Gang. He would show the later version MGM Our Gang shorts and always told cowboy stories while making charcoal drawings. His show aired Saturday mornings till about 1965.

There was also Bob Bradley (sportscaster) who dressed up in Buckskins and use to shoot his pistol behind a studio rock while they intercut old western serials. (Philadlephia loved it's cowboys !)

In 1966 or so, they were all replaced by a fellow named Gerry Wheeler, who created a character called "Lorenzo" Who can forget the Lorenzo stomp?? This was a funny dance he did to a Boots Randolph record.

Gerry used to create his characters Lorenzo, a country bumpkin guy with buck teeth and (what else) another cowboy, all in front of the audience and explain to you what he was doing. Lorenzo was kind of a Emmett Kelly ripoff, but he had more of a heart. His show was on mid mornings on Ch. 3 (KYW) on both Sat and Sun. and he showed old Our Gang comedies and the Marvel Superheroes cartoons.

Bertie the BunyipOne thing about kids TV at that time in the 50's and 60's was that "all" of these celebrities could co-exist. There seemed to be no ratings war with the 3 VHF stations. They all did promotions, guest appearences and charity work.

Once in 1966 all the local kid celebs posed together at some charity event (I think it was Ronald McDonald House) for a group picture. Captain Philadelphia (an astronaut on Ch 48-UHF, sportscaster Stu Neiham), Wee Willie Webber (Ch 6 &17), Gene London (Ch 10), Pixanne (Ch 10), Chief Halftown (Ch 6), Sally Starr (Ch 6) and Lorenzo (Ch 3) with Ronald McDonald. "Does anyone out there still have that giveaway photograph??" There was also WFIL day at local fairs and air shows.

Channel 6 (WFIL-WPVI) had the most kid hosts from the 50's into the 90's. The All Star list over the years were: Pick Temple, Rex Morgan and Sally Starr (Cowboys/girl), Chief Halftown, Bill Webber, Happy the Clown, (with marching sticks, cardboard birthday cake and Mr.Mic(rophone), Miss Connie on Romper Room, Larry Ferreri, Al Alberts, and last but not least, Captain and Mrs. Noah and the Magical Ark. "Send your pictures to Dear Old Capt. Noah!!" You could also count Dick Clark and American Bandstand before it moved to CA.

There was also a guy around 1960 or so that was short and skinny and wore a 1890's suit (Help me out with that one !!)

Both Pick and Sally's shows opened at times with them riding their horses through Fairmount Park with the "Wagon Train" theme playing in the background. These hosts also filled in for Aunt Sally when she was sick or on vacation I remember. Rex Morgan did a guest shot on the Rifleman once, too!

Sally Starr along with Gene London, were the royalty of Phila. Kid Television. Aunt Sally and Gene were on sometimes 7 days a week and no one was tired of watching them. All of these performers were great in their time and made an impact on our generation, but Gene and Sally more than any of them were probably our 2nd parents, providing morals and guidance you didn't get at home and school.

Sally Starr started at about 4PM in the afternoon (after American Bandstand) till 6PM. The old show was called "Popeye Theater" with a giant cut out of Popeye wearing a cowboy suit. (I wish I had that now !!) Her opening line was " I hope ya feel as good as ya look to your gal Sal" and closed with "May the Good Lord be blessing you and your family, bye for now!" She never talked down to her audience, you knew she was sincere.

Sally's show was mostly famous for Popeye in all his reincarnations, and The 3 Stooges (shorts, cartoons and Stooge guest shots), but throughout the years the viewer saw: Warner Bros. & H/B cartoons, Bullwinkle, Clutch Cargo, Space Angel, The Funny Company, Ramar of the Jungle, The Lone Ranger, Andy Clyde shorts, Doodles Weaver, Beetle Bailey, Krazy Kat and Snuffy Smith cartoons too. She used to plug Good & Plenty, Cocca Marsh and Gino's and if she flubbed her lines, she would bend her cowgirl hat and say "I made a boo, boo!!" It was great when the Stooges were on because I was proud that Larry Fine was from Philadelphia.

Channel 10 (WCAU) was home to Pixanne and Gene London. Let's face it, Pixanne was a babe. She lived in the forrest with Oggie the Owl, Flippy Butterfly and Wendy Witch. She use to tell stories while she played a piano behind a rock. She had pixie dust, and use to fly within a very short amount of space. The actresses name was Jane Norman I believe, and she did all the characters and voices. Like Gene, she showed Deputy Dawg and H/B cartoons. I remember I saw her make believe set while I was on the Gene London Show in 1963.

Here are a few more names before I sign off: Dickory Doc in the toy shop (Ch 48-UHF) with Choo Choo, Jingle Jim, Prof. Schnitzel, and Little Jacques. The same guy a few years later on (Ch 29-UHF) called himself Atom Android with all the same puppets, Skipper Ryle, Sgt Sackto who replaced Capt. Philadelphia. This station inherited all the old NTA cartoons from Bertie's show. Wee Willie (Bill) Webber's Cartoon Club (Ch. 17-UHF) had a opening theme written by George Gershwin. Bill gave us all the Japatoon hits like, AstroBoy, 8th. Man, Rocket Robin Hood, Marine Boy, Speed Racer and Ultra Man.

Enjoy the pictures and everyone TVparty on.

Will Hill, Dresher PA.

"My 11 year old son was doing a project on mythological creatures. In one of the books there was mentioned a 'bunyip".

"At 52, the mere mention of that word, which I thought was made up by the way, made me think of Bertie the Bunyip which my sisters and I watched as a kid. I used to have nightmares about Sir Guy de Guy.

"Well, I decided to enter Bunyip on search and to my delight I found your site. I had almost forgotten where 'fussy and gussy' came from, yet I refer to my two kids often by those terms."

- Thanks, Chris Fields

Bertie the BunyipAttached is a photograph of my brother, David Nuessle, tuning in “Bertie the Bunyip” at our home in Horsham, PA. The back of the photograph gives the date as September 16, 1956. Brother Dave was four years old at that time.

Hope you can use the photograph in some way. It would be nice to have a “celebrity” in the family!

- Maryellen Newton

Last night my husband and I were watching HGTV’s Design Star and one of the designer judges on the show is Vern Yip. I turned to my husband and said, “Vern Yip… Vernyip… isn’t that a funny sounding name? It sounds like…“ and I paused and remembered a bunyip. I remembered Bertie the Bunyip! I hadn’t thought about Bertie in forty-five years!

When I tried to tell my husband what he was exactly, I didn’t know what to say. I remembered a bunny-like, fuzzy, happy puppet. I had to do a search for Bertie and here he is on your website. I grew up in the Lehigh Valley and it was so much fun seeing all of my old friends here… Sally Starr, Chief Halftown to name a few and of course Bertie. Thanks for the memories!

- Millie Perry



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"Your web site about Bertie the Bunyip brought back some childhood memories. I grew up in Philadelphia in the 1950's and remember appearing with my younger sister (along with other children) on this television show.

"About four years ago I was talking with friends about Children's television programs. During the discussion, I mentioned that I lived in Philadelphia and had appeared on Bertie the Bunyip as young child. I estimated that I appeared on the show around 1959.

"Now this caused a stir because no one had ever heard about "Bertie". Since I now lived in Florida, and most of my friends were not from Philadelphia, I was teased about the name. Everyone wanted to know what a bunyip was. It was then decided that I had made up the story because there was no such thing as a Bunyip. And I was teased mercifully and this continued for several years.

"Then last year, when I took a trip to Australia, I discovered a Bunyip was a mythical creature the Aborginal people dreamed about in their culture. Upon my return to the United States, I told my friends about this and everyone decided that maybe my childhood memory of appearing on Bertie the Bunyip was not an exaggeration after all. In fact two of my friends who also were in Australia came across Bunyips in their travels as well.

"And then today, this afternoon, I was totally vindicated when I was told about your web site. had old children's television programs and Bertie was among them. I was finally able to clear my name.

- Melanie Rosenberg Herz


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